All of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this.

Gabriel Sterling, calling out his fellow Republicans
about threats of violence against Georgia election officials

This week’s featured posts are “Republicans Start Reaping the Whirlwind” and “Pardons and Their Limits“.

This week everybody was talking about the virus and the vaccines

We’re at a significant point here. On the one hand, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are higher than they’ve ever been. The Thanksgiving holiday almost certainly spread the virus further, but that shouldn’t fully show up in the numbers until next week. Winter is just getting started, a significant portion of the population is as resistant to good sense as ever, and Christmas is coming. So over the next month or two, things look pretty grim.

Personally, I’m noticing the pandemic hitting closer to home. For a long time, I knew people who knew people who had the virus, but my inner circle was largely unaffected. Just in this last week, though, I’ve heard about infections in two households connected only by the fact that I know them.

On the sunny side of the street, there are at least two viable vaccines, one of which is already approved in the UK. Both should start getting distributed here fairly soon.

The NYT posted a gadget to estimate where you stand in the line to get vaccinated. I thought being 64 would give me some advantages, but lacking any complicating morbidities or an essential job, I fall pretty close to the middle of the pack: About 185.6 Americans are in line ahead of me. My wild guess is that I’ll be able to emerge from my hole sometime this summer.

Presidential adviser Scott Atlas has resigned. I have little to add to what Dick Polman wrote in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star:

Atlas, the White House pandemic adviser, was the ultimate MAGA appointee: ill-qualified for the job he got, woefully over his head while doing it, and people died because he did it.

He will not be missed.

and conspiracy theories about the election

Trump’s increasingly desperate lawsuits continue to get tossed out of court, often by Republican judges, and sometimes even by Trump appointees. Conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote:

At stake, in some measure, is faith in our system of free and fair elections, a feature central to the enduring strength of our constitutional republic. It can be easy to blithely move on to the next case with a petition so obviously lacking, but this is sobering. The relief being sought by the petitioners is the most dramatic invocation of judicial power I have ever seen. Judicial acquiescence to such entreaties built on so flimsy a foundation would do indelible damage to every future election. Once the door is opened to judicial invalidation of presidential election results, it will be awfully hard to close that door again. This is a dangerous path we are being asked to tread. The loss of public trust in our constitutional order resulting from the exercise of this kind of judicial power would be incalculable.

I mentioned Gabriel Sterling’s rant in one of the featured posts. But if you haven’t seen it, you really should.

The straw that broke Sterling’s back was a video circulating among QAnon supporters. Claiming to be a “smoking gun” demonstrating manipulation of vote totals, it shows Sterling’s 20-something tech “using a computer and thumb drive”.

The video is one of several that is going around on social media and being promoted by people like Rudy Giuliani as “evidence” that Biden stole the election from Trump. It’s a great example of the advantage lies have over truth. By the time you debunk one such claim, five others have sprung up. And as soon as you deal with them, somebody will repeat the first one again.

One rule of thumb eliminates a large number of such claims: If Trump’s lawyers haven’t been willing to repeat the claim in one of their 40-some lawsuits, they don’t believe it either. Anybody can rent a function room in a hotel and hold a “hearing”.

If you’re wondering why Trump is doing this when his effort has so little chance of success, all you have to do is follow the money. Trump has raised more than $200 million to “stop the steal” — money that is mostly going into a leadership PAC he can spend however he likes. The actual cost of his lawsuits is only a fraction of that.

The longer he can keep this show going, the more money he can shake out of his followers. It’s that simple.

While the rest of America debates whether to call Trump’s attempt to overrule the electorate a coup, Trumpist groups are eliminating all doubt about what they want: An Ohio group called We the People Convention took out a full-page ad in the Washington Times (a flagship conservative newspaper) asking President Trump

to immediately declare a limited form of Martial Law, and temporarily suspend the Constitution and civilian control of these federal elections, for the sole purpose of having the military oversee a national re-vote.

OK, any crazy group can publish an ad in any paper that will take their money. But recently pardoned felon Michael Flynn retweeted the ad with the comment “Freedom never kneels except for God.” If Flynn were still on active duty, he would be subject to Article 92 of the Military Code, which states that any service member who

with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of lawful civil authority, creates, in concert with any other person, revolt, violence, or other disturbance against that authority is guilty of sedition

and pardons

Trump won’t admit he’s on his way out the door, but he’s preparing pardons that wouldn’t be necessary if he thought he would maintain his control over the Justice Department. The possibilities being discussed raise a lot of constitutional issues, which I discussed in one of the featured posts.

and Trump’s future

Depending on who you listen to, on January 21 Trump becomes (1) the presumptive 2024 Republican nominee, or (2) just another crackpot on the internet. I’m leaning towards (2), though his decline may take a few months to become clear.

Here’s my thinking: For the last four years, ambitious Republicans hitched their wagons to Trump, figuring that one way or the other he’d be out of the picture by 2024, and his personality cult would need a new leader. Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, Nikki Haley, Tucker Carlson, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley, and rest — they all saw their Trump loyalty as a path to greater things.

But if Trump isn’t going to get out of the way, or if he hopes to hand the GOP off to Don Jr. when he does finally leave, all those people have to recalculate. Maybe they don’t want to be seen as disloyal, but they also don’t want Trump to stay at the top of the Party. So they’re going to be looking for subtle ways to undermine him or upstage him.

Even for his personality cult, the shine might begin to fade. Trump’s primary virtue, from his base’s point of view, was that he could strike terror into the hearts of the liberals that MAGA-hatters think look down on them. In that sense, the ultimate source of his power has always been people like me (and probably you). But come January 21, I might still be appalled at what Trump is saying, but I’m unlikely to worry too much about him. People looking to “own the libs” will need find somebody more fearsome than a has-been we’ve already beaten by 7 million votes.

Amanda Marcotte makes a similar observation regarding Trump’s pathetic 46-minute Facebook monologue, which he billed as “the most important speech I’ve ever made“.

Trump’s self-pitying rant registered as pitiful instead of frightening. The speech barely touched the top headlines at most major news sites. … The tone of most media coverage was more condescending than fearful. Outrage is quickly being eclipsed by annoyance at Trump for being a pest who doesn’t know when to pack it up and go home.

Until now, identifying with Trump has made his cultists feel powerful. But not for much longer. Soon, he will make them feel even more like losers than they already do.

and the economy

Congress seems to be converging on a Covid relief package that is less than $1 trillion. Or maybe it will do nothing.

Meanwhile, the country is in a very bifurcated state: If you can work from home, or if you live off your investments, you’re doing quite well. In fact, you’re probably building up savings because there is so little to spend your money on.

But if you run or work at a small business that relies on face-to-face interactions with customers, you’re hurting.

Nearly 12 million renters will owe an average of $5,850 in back rent and utilities by January, Moody’s Analytics warns.

Friday’s jobs report was sobering. The pattern since the beginning of the pandemic has looked like this: Tens of millions of jobs went away in March and April, and they have been coming back since at a rate that would be phenomenal in any other circumstance.

That quick comeback seems to be over, and it ended well before the economy got back to where it was in February.

and you also might be interested in …

Maybe democracy is making a comeback.

After years of passively watching nationalist governments in Hungary and Poland undermine democratic rule, the European Union finally drew the line this year and declared that disbursements from the E.U. budget and a special coronavirus relief fund would be contingent on each member’s adherence to the rule of law.

What is Bob Dylan’s catalog of song rights worth? The exact answer is blowing in the wind, but it might be $300 million. I’m sure his financial people looked at the offer and advised him not to think twice.

According to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, student debt forgiveness is “the truly insidious notion of government gift giving”. Free college for lower-income Americans amounts to “a socialist takeover of higher education”.

Sadly, we will no longer reap the benefits of such billionaire sagacity after January 20. Living your whole life without ever wondering how you’re going to pay for something gives you a deeper wisdom that the rest of us can’t fathom.

Further fallout from Brexit: Scottish independence has “never been so certain”, says First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

and let’s close with something unintelligible

Back in the 70s, Italian singer Adriano Celentano noted how Italians loved American pop music, even when they couldn’t understand the words. So he wrote the catchy song “Prisencolinensinainciusol“, which is gibberish that sounds like American-accented English.

The weirdest thing is that his song doesn’t just sound like American English to Italians, it sounds like American English to me too. It’s gibberish, but it’s clearly an American flavor of gibberish. I would love to hear a linguistics expert explain how that works.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • James Collins  On December 7, 2020 at 2:00 pm

    Didn’t see the note about the latest “religious freedom to die” ruling. Did I overlook it?

  • madelonw1011  On December 7, 2020 at 2:04 pm

    I admire your ability to write calmly in the face of chaos. I, myself, tend to go off the deep end verbally… at least at home.

  • Dan G  On December 7, 2020 at 2:06 pm

    Grummalot is an old performance technique in which a performer imitates the Rhythmic patterns, anatomical shape, and phonetic vocabulary of a particular dialect. Most of us hold our mouth and other vocal structures a particular way to create our “sound” and our dialect has a limited number of sounds. By imitating those you can create a gibberish that passes as the language.

    Its not limited to dialects, dario fo was famous for doing A “scientist” grummalot.

  • Meg LeSchack  On December 7, 2020 at 5:21 pm

    He sounds like any recent TRUMPUBLICAN, except more friendly. Jivin’. 😄

  • David Goldfarb  On December 7, 2020 at 10:20 pm

    I first heard “Prisencolinensinainciusol” some years back. And yes, it’s an excellent job of reproducing American English phonemes and rhythms. I did notice one omission: you can listen as hard as you like, but you will not hear a “th” sound, whether voiced or unvoiced — in real English it’s quite a common sound, but of course it’s not present in Italian.

    • Anonymous  On December 8, 2020 at 7:11 pm

      “Th” is the hardest sound for a non-native speaker to pronounce correctly. Each nationality mispronounces it in their own distinctive way.

  • C Reed  On December 9, 2020 at 11:10 am

    That guy reminds me of Sacha Baron Cohen. There’s another great video of this song with incredible dancing. Some have called it the greatest video on twitter. I love the beat.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: